You always hear the phrase: “it’s more about the journey than the destination.” I can’t say that I agree considering some of past hellish flights, however, I can say that my experience with train travel is really is really ALL about the journey.
I’ve traveled on the sleek, timely trains of Europe, crisscrossing countries like Germany and Switzerland, France and Italy, but never had I spent more than a few hours on the American rails, save for quick trips to the shore on New Jersey Transit. So I decided to dive in head first and take a 3 day, 56 hour direct Amtrak train from blustery Chicago to sunny Los Angeles. I skipped all the the baby steps and dove in full throttle.
Now, spending three full days on a bumpy train, without more than a ten minute “smoking stop” to breathe in fresh air, isn’t for everyone. The blowing whistles aren’t exactly a lullaby. But I have to say, it is an experience that not only teaches you a lot about this beautiful “Fifty Nifty” but also a lot about yourself.
As I am always filming, I profiled the food, the sleeper cars, the entertainment options and I even interviewed fellow passengers in my seven part video series. As a result I have my top seven pieces of advice for any enthusiastic train traveler out there.
1. Turn your phone into a wireless hotspot
There’s very spotty service in many areas along the tracks so it’s easy to be stuck without email, social media & Youtube videos unless you plan ahead. Make sure you can tether your phone to your laptop so you can catch up on TV shows, track your route and stay connected to the world.
2. Download Entertainment ahead of time
With no wifi on board and limited service via your phone, be sure to pre-download all you need in terms of TV, movies, books & magazines. You’d be amazed at how many series you can crush in 56 hours.
3. Bring Games
This may seem obvious but it’s easy to forget! Good old fashioned cards and other portable games will help pass the time. Bonus: if you are traveling solo, allow you to meet new people!
4. Separate Bag
When you get on your car, there are designated areas for large bags. They are crowded and you will have to fight the pile of other bags to get to your toothbrush unless you take an auxiliary bag. I had a small duffle that had only necessary clothes for the journey, pajamas, toiletries and comfy shoes. This was the only bag I used while on the train and I could keep it right in my cabin. If you don’t have a cabin, make sure it’s small enough to take with you for meals.
5. Check out the Cars
Move around, change the scenery and explore the other cars! Of course, the favorite is the panoramic view car, but there’s also an upstairs and downstairs food car for a change of scenery. And remember, just walking around the halls can get your blood pumping!
6. Bring Booze!
If you enjoy a nice cocktail, it is important to know that there aren’t many options on board. Also the limited selection that is available is very expensive. Bring some bottles of wine, a case of beer or your favorite libation and bring plastic cups. You will thank me later.
7. Window Gaze
Thinking back to this trip, the most magical part was really getting to see the dramatic American landscapes change before your very eyes. Be sure to take photos as you go along and you’ll be shocked at the difference that an hour can make in the moving picture that is outside your window.
Watch the rest of the series here–> http://bit.ly/AmtrakSeries
And don’t forget to follow my travels on social media: @kelleyferro